Norman Efros, Los Angeles, California
Efros learned the trade from his father while working closely with interior decorators, hung wallpaper, mixed colors to match fabrics and did a lot of wood graining, which was popular at the time.
by Stacey Enesey Klemenc
on his home phone, but his cell phone wouldn't stop ringing. It's probably Cindy Crawford, he said.
It was just another day for Efros, who has worked with possibly hundreds of celebrities over his 40-year career in Los Angeles. In fact, he believes he probably holds one obscure record in the industry: He worked for the three biggest hunks in Hollywood Tom Cruise, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pierce Brosnan over the same three-month period.
Interior decorator Michael S. Smith says Efros deep understanding of color sets him apart. The qualities that set a gifted painter above and beyond the rest are having a true sense of color and the ability to successfully implement that knowledge. Norman possesses those qualities.
Efros route to becoming a painting contractor started with a rock band. It was the early 1960s, and the band was called The Red Jackets. Efros played drums professionally, working in clubs and in the studio, backing up popular bands (Jan and Dean and the Everly Brothers among them). He made about $75 a recording session. Once he got married, he discovered that he had to make a living, and playing the drums was not going to cut it.
Thankfully, his father, Louis, was one of the top painting contractors in the Beverly Hills area at that time, specializing in high-end specialty work for movie stars and moguls. He was also a director on the board of the Los Angeles Painting Contractors Association. One of his assignments was the Apprenticeship Training Program. He asked Norman, then 19, to apprentice.
After being a professional drummer for many years and watching the celebrities on the dance floor, I never would have dreamed that some day I would trade those drum sticks for a single stick with bristles, Efros says. Soon I found I was painting and decorating the beautiful homes of these same celebrities.
Efros learned the trade. His father worked closely with interior decorators, hung wallpaper, mixed colors to match fabrics and did a lot of wood graining, which was popular at the time. Louis showed his son that once you get a few good clients, referrals can do all the advertising for you.
After working for his father for about 10 years, the younger Efros got his contractor's license and worked in motion picture set painting for a year or so, but then struck out on his own.
In just a couple of years, his strong skills as a painter and the relationships he had developed through his music career and his father's business created a steady stream of clients.
His business mushroomed, and Efros quickly learned to pace himself.
There were times when I had 40 to 50 people working for me, and I don't have to tell you that you lose quality control and you're just spinning your wheels, so now I'm just taking the cream of the crop.
A dedicated crew of between 20 and 25 works for Efros now. The majority have been with him for more than 20 years, traveling to Brazil, Atlanta, Hawaii, Israel and more to work in the finest homes. The crew members are talented artists and are paid well, Efros says.
My company is pretty unique because we can do anything, he says. We can do Venetian plaster, we can marbleize, we can do wood staining, any kind of glazing on wood We can make new things look 300 years old or 300-year-old things look new the usual gamut.
One interior designer, in fact, calls Efros painting close to perfect.” Roy Sklarin of Sklarin Interiors says, “From faux painting to flat painting, his work is meticulous. He finishes on time and gives a firm price to our clients up front, which does not vary unless they change the total outlook of the job.”
Interior designer Sherry Schlesinger started a working relationship with Efros about 25 years ago on a handshake and has never had a serious disagreement with him after more than 30 jobs together. That’s because she knows he will complete the job on time and the results will surpass expectations, she says. “The one characteristic above all that makes him successful is his talent. Norman can duplicate any color, finish or technique.”
She added that Efros is a sharp businessman, but attentive to the client’s concerns and very personable.
Efros says developing a good rapport with clients is essential. The painting trade involves spending lots of time in someone’s personal space, with their kids, their pets, their treasured belongings. Clients need to feel comfortable having a paint crew in their homes.
“You’ve heard the phrase, ‘There’s no business like show business.’ That’s also true about being a painting contractor. It is unlike any other service business, bar none. Why? Because it’s personal.”
Efros says his clients prefer more soothing, harmonious colors lately, which he believes is a reaction to the economic and political upheaval in the world today. One 22,000-square-foot house he just completed is monochromatic — the walls are glazed in a taupe color, the ceilings are silver leaf with platinum glaze, and all the accents are focused on the art and the fabrics.
Efros juggles about a dozen jobs at once, and part of him would like to slow down, but he truly enjoys his work. “My wife tells me, ‘Norman, you have to learn to say no,’ but I just can’t do it.” At the end of the day, the great reward of creating something beautiful keeps him going the next day, and the next.
So Efros will continue painting for actors, singers, writers, sports stars, executives, and the like. Over the years, he’s found they have a few similarities: many, many hours of practice, and some failures. “They all started with the basics, and each day, and each week, and each month, they improved more and more, until they could sing like Celine Dion, act like Jack Nicholson, write like Hemingway, slam dunk like Michael Jordan.” Or paint like Norman Efros.